HEALTH IS a six-letter word that most of us think we know exactly what it means. However, when you actually start talking with people about health you find a very wide range of ideas about what it means to be healthy.
Some responses we’ve heard include, “Well, I’m not dead,” “I’m not sick, so I’m healthy,” or “I can do what I need to every day.”
All the efforts of the Canyon Ranch Institute Savannah Partnership (CRISP) we report to you each week are based on an understanding that good health isn’t simply the absence of disease, or of not being sick.
Being healthier in your daily decisions—be they large or small—means you will be better able to:
• Do all the things you need and want to do, such as moving without pain, playing, and sleeping well.
• Accomplish what is most important in your life—to fulfill your sense of purpose.
• Improve and maintain your body, relationships, mood, sleep, and overall energy.
One of the least healthy things we can do is to sit a lot. Sitting means we are not moving our bodies, and that we are not changing our positions or our perspective.
Sitting too much without moving our body enough is a sure way to a slow death. From that very literal truth, we can easily see that change—change in your behavior, change in your movement, change in your mood—can be healthy. Change can open the door to healthier lives.
There are stories of change going on around you in Savannah—in your lives—every day. Certainly, not all change is necessarily healthy—but to be healthier you must change. You must grow and adapt and create a healthier you.
We know a person in Savannah, some of you know her too. She’s exactly the type of person the movies always picture in Savannah. She is a fabulously expressive individual. She will be the first to speak in a room, the first to deliver an opinion. She views the world with a wide-eyed perspective most of us forgot somewhere in our childhood. Every day is new, every day offers a potential to make a change.
She has started to change. She is walking more and eating smarter. She is learning about her body and how what she does every day predicts her future.
She is slowly making small steps toward a healthier future. She is feeling better about herself—you can see the change in the glow of her skin and the smile on her face. You can have that, too.
Change means doing things in new or different ways. Focus your change on small, easily accomplished, healthier steps and in the long run you will discover a new, healthier, and happier you has emerged. If you take this challenge to learn what it means to have a healthier and happier future, please keep these truths in mind at all times:
• Changes can be large or small. The best approach is to focus on small changes that can make a big difference over time.
• Understanding why a change is useful or necessary is important to staying motivated while making a change. So don’t make a random or willy-nilly change just because you heard about it on late-night TV ads making outrageous claims about weight loss. Make an informed decision about a realistic change that has been proven effective. If you don’t know one, go ask your nurse or doctor!
• How we make a change in our lives is more important than what that change is. Make sure you have the support of your family and friends in making an informed change before you make the change.
• Sometimes, people can be afraid of change, but change can be positive. Do not let fear prevent you from trying. If you fail, try again.
Healthy lives are lived one choice and one step at a time, in a lifelong journey. Healthy cities are made one choice and one step at a time, in a journey that extends across many lives and many lifetimes.
We want to help make Savannah one of the healthiest cities in the world. To make a big change like that, we need to break it down into small steps. Each week, we will discuss different small steps that you as an individual and Savannah as a community might want to make.
When you pick a small step to make in your life or in your community, make sure it has rewards you will experience quickly. Nothing is less satisfying than taking on a big task and never seeing the payoff at the end. Avoid that by taking small steps that quickly lead to a feeling of satisfaction.
Along the way, keep in mind just what it means to be healthy. The World Health Organization defines health as a “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Another group of individuals once wrote what is called the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion. That document, which you can find online, defines health as a “resource for everyday life, not the objective of living.”
Here are a few tips to help you form a picture in your mind of your own healthy change that you want to make. Ask yourself:
•What do I want my health to be and feel like?
•What do I want my family’s health to be like?
•What do I want to accomplish that I can’t do right now because of my health?
•How do I feel about myself today, and how would I like to feel?
•What parts of my health would I like to change?
•What would I be doing if I were healthier than I am today?
•Who am I with as I become healthier?
•When I imagine myself in good health, am I able to do something I can’t do today?
As you answer those questions to yourself – at some point you will feel a little tug at your heart, a little voice in your ear. Listen to yourself. Imagine your healthier future. If you fall, get back up and keep going.
As Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of England during World War II, once said, “Healthy citizens are the greatest asset any country can have.”
Your health is your own to do with what you will. But do remember that benefits from healthy choices spread throughout your life, your family’s lives, and the life and well-being of Savannah and our nation.Make your health—and your life—count.